By Dr. Alan Leavens
This is embarrassing, but I find myself scared and anxious about Covid. I’m afraid to leave the house, and I’ve had several anxiety attacks, worrying sick about catching the virus. Some of my friends laugh it off and think I’m overreacting. Am I overreacting? Am I just being paranoid?
I’m reminded of an old saying: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Whether you’re fearful or displaying a sense of bravado, this pandemic is real, and people are dying every day. Having, at the very least, a healthy sense of respect for the damage that Covid-19 can do makes perfect sense. And if it scares you, all the better. That means you’ll do everything in your power to avoid being infected by this very scary virus. Do you need to be paranoid, or scared out of your wits? No. As long as you do what’s necessary to protect yourself, you have a good head start against the people who belittle others’ efforts at self-protection. This means wearing a mask at all times when you are out in public. It means not leaving the house unless it’s for some business that requires your presence, like going to the bank, or shopping for necessities. It means maintaining social distancing when around others; and employing common sense in avoiding situations that could compromise you in a pandemic world.
Fear and anxiety are normal responses to threats, real or perceived. There is no shame in being cautious when faced with danger. Perhaps we need to make sure we are not completely surrounded by people who make light of our actions to avoid peril in the form of an invisible virus. We need support from friends and family who share our concerns and act similarly. Because of the lockdowns and limitations due to the pandemic, our movements have been restricted, so most of us are not getting anywhere near the kind of close interpersonal connections that we are used to and need for our mental well-being. Zoom, Skype, and other online tools may not be the most satisfying interactions we can utilize, but they are very welcome when faced with the alternative – not linking with family and friends who can provide love and support when we’re scared and lonely. And, of course, there are therapeutic solutions in situations where there are not enough familial or familiar sources of comfort. Most psychologists and psychiatrists are available online nowadays, and access to professional assistance is quite easy.
There are also many different self-soothing techniques for anxiety reduction, including meditation, guided imagery, mindfulness, deep muscle relaxation, and many more. Many of these methods are demonstrated online, some on YouTube, some found by a simple search. Perhaps we can devote a column in the future, to some of the most used and successful of these.
In the meantime, be well and stay safe.